Japan-based Filipino judoka Kiyomi Watanabe won silver in the women's judo 63-kilogram category at the 2018 Asian Games on Thursday, a confidence-boosting result as she looks ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"I knew that there would be strong opponents at the Asian Games from Japan, South Korea and Mongolia. But I had a strong spirit and brought my best and I think I got at the least I could," said the 22-year-old student at Tokyo's Waseda University in fluent Japanese after losing in the final to Japan's Nami Nabekura.
(Kiyomi Watanabe, blue, and Nami Nabekura in the gold medal contest)
After training with Nabekura in Japan, she had devised counterstrategies going into the final. But she said she tensed up, and that led to her ippon defeat.
"I was moving smoothly in the bouts leading up to the final, but once there, I got nervous and could not perform the way I wanted."
Born to a Filipino mother and Japanese father in Cebu, central Philippines, she moved at an early age to the Yamanashi Prefecture city of Fujiyoshida and took up judo when she was in fifth grade.
She decided to represent the Philippines at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, aiming to give the country its first judo medal.
"My performance here at the Asian Games is encouraging as I aim for the Tokyo Olympics," said Watanabe, who only managed a seventh-place finish in her debut at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, in 2014.
"Last time at the Asian Games I couldn't get a medal so I am certainly making progress, step by step. I want to continue to train and prepare myself for the Tokyo Olympics," said Watanabe, who will also compete in the World Championships in September in Baku, Azerbaijan.
(Nabekura, white, defeats Watanabe)
In the last edition of the World Championships in 2017, she placed ninth, an improvement from a 33rd place finish two years earlier.
"There are many strong judoka at the World Championships from many countries. I am practicing and scouting their videos," said Watanabe, who finished third in the Dusseldorf Grand Slam tournament in Germany this year.
Watanabe's silver added to the Philippines medal tally of four gold, one silver and 13 bronze at the Asian Games in Indonesia, which run through Sunday.